Thursday, September 21, 2017

Honey Chocolate Brownies

September is National Honey Month. I'm a huge fan of HONEY, so feel free to make this Honey Chocolate Brownie recipe this month or any month of the year. And since its Rosh Hashana, this is a great way to celebrate a sweet New Year.

This Honey Chocolate Brownies recipe won the 2000 Huron County Fair Blue Ribbon. I've adapted it slightly. Just as different cocoa will change the taste of these brownies, so will the honey. Try these brownies with different honey and chocolate combinations. I get my local honey from my favorite beekeepers.

HONEY CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

Ingredients
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup flour
3 eggs beaten
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/3 cup DARK cocoa

Directions
In mixer, beat butter until creamy.
Slowly add honey, mixing constantly.
Add eggs, vanilla, and salt.
Add cocoa.
Add flour.
Fold in nuts.
Make sure the batter is mixed completely.
Pour batter into greased 9x13x2 inch. deep pan and bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chocolate Chip Apple Bundt Cake


I love Fall with its infinite variety of apples.  Here's a great way to make the most of the apple harvest. This fabulous Chocolate Chip Apple Bundt Cake (recipe originally from Sunset Magazine) is a great way to celebrate the Fall Equinox and/or Rosh Hashana. I use tart apples in this recipe because I like the combination of tart and sweet. Try different apple varieties. Also, you can use your favorite dark chocolate instead of chocolate chips. Chop into chips.

Chocolate Chip Apple Bundt Cake

Ingredients 
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups apples - peeled, cored and diced
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour one 9 or 10 inch Bundt Pan.
In large bowl, cream butter with sugar. Beat in eggs. Add water and vanilla.
Stir flour, cocoa, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg together. Beat this mixture into creamed mixture.
Fold in chopped apples and semisweet chocolate chips (or chocolate chocolate chunks).
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tests done when toothpick is inserted near center. Do not overbake. Start checking at one hour.
Transfer to a rack to cool.

Photo: Sunset Magazine

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds for Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts tomorrow night. I've already posted a recipe for Chocolate Honey Cake for a sweet New Year, but here's another. This time for Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds.

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah,  a "new fruit" is eaten. It's usually a fruit that has recently come into season but that you haven't yet had the opportunity to eat. Traditionally, one says the shehechiyanu blessing thanking God for keeping you and yours alive and bringing you to this season. This ritual reminds everyone to appreciate the fruits of the earth and being alive to enjoy them.

A pomegranate is often the new fruit. In the Bible, the Land of Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that this fruit contains 613 seeds just as there are 613 mitzvot (commandments). Another reason given for blessing and eating pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah is that one wishes that good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate.

For this recipe for Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds, I buy packages of Pomegranate seeds at Trader Joe's, but you can always go the old fashioned way and buy two whole pomegranates and remove the seeds. For an easy way to deseed pomegranates, see this post. Rich bittersweet dark chocolate goes very well with the tart pomegranate flavor, and the textures meld well. Even if you're not celebrating the Jewish New Year, Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds make a great snack, and you'll enjoy the benefits of both sources of antioxidants. 

DARK CHOCOLATE COVERED POMEGRANATE SEEDS

Ingredients
Pomegranate Seeds
About 7 ounces (depending how many seeds you have) of good quality Dark Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped

Directions
Line cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.
Melt dark chocolate in double boiler or saucepan on top of saucepan of simmering water. Stir to make sure chocolate doesn't burn.
Add dry pomegranate seeds (so if they've been in the refrigerator make sure to dry them) to melted chocolate and fold gently with rubber spatula until seeds are thoroughly covered.
Spoon clusters of mixture onto wax or parchment paper.
Place wax or parchment papered cookie sheet in refrigerator and let chocolate covered seeds cool for several hours or overnight.
Keep refrigerated. Will last 3-4 days.

No time to cook? 
Trader Joe's sells chocolate covered pomegranate seeds.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pomegranate Fudge for Rosh Hashana (or any time!)

Here's another chocolate recipe for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Even if you're not celebrating this holiday, you'll want to bookmark this recipe and try it today or another time. This is a very simple recipe, but you'll find it incredibly tasty. I use dark chocolate, but milk chocolate works well, too. I buy my pomegranate seeds at Trader Joe's, but you may want to buy a whole pomegranate and de-seed it. Here's a link to an easy way to do that. As I've mentioned before, use the very best ingredients for the best flavor!

On the second day of Rosh Hashana, it's traditional to eat a fruit you haven't had this season. Pomegranates are often the 'preferred' fruit, because they also symbolize fruitfulness. It's also said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 commandments of the Torah.

Pomegranate Fudge

Ingredients
23 ounces Chocolate, chopped  (60-65% cacao) or chocolate chips (or milk chocolate, if you prefer)
14 ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Pomegranate Molasses
1/2 tsp Sea Salt (fleur de sel)
Seeds of 1 Pomegranate (about a cup or 5 1/3 ounces if you're buying them loose)

Directions
Line pan that is at least 7 x 7 and 2 inches high with parchment paper.
In saucepan over saucepan over simmering water, combine chocolate and condensed milk. Stirring constantly.
Remove from stove and mix in pomegranate molasses. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.
Pour fudge into parchment-lined pan, smoothing with spatula.
Spread pomegranate seeds over top of fudge and gently pat into fudge so they stick to fudge as it cools.
Add another 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt over top of fudge.
Put in refrigerator to set.
Remove from refrigerator.
Cut and eat.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Chocolate Honey Cake

Here's a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Honey Cake. Honey Cake is a great treat to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, that begins next Wednesday night. Honey is a traditional food that symbolizes a Sweet New Year. Add Chocolate, and the year is bound to be even sweeter!

This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Honey Cake aka Honey Bee Cake. She decorates her Chocolate Honey Cake with the most adorable marzipan bees, but I never get quite that involved. Too bad, because they're really beautiful. FYI: Honey cake doesn't have to be dry and heavy. This cake is incredibly moist! As I've mentioned many times, though, your final product will be different depending on the type and brand of chocolate and the type of honey you use.

Chocolate Honey Cake

Ingredients

Cake:
4 ounces dark chocolate (50-65% cacao), chopped
1 1/3 cups soft light brown sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup local honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp DARK cocoa
1 cup boiling water

Sticky Honey Glaze:
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup honey
6 ounces dark chocolate (60-75% cacao), finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp confectioners sugar

Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temperature.
Melt chocolate from cake part of ingredients list in large bowl, either in microwave or bowl over pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line 9-inch springform pan.
Beat together sugar and softened butter until airy and creamy, and then add honey.
Add 1 of eggs, beating in with tablespoon of flour, and then second egg with another tablespoon of flour.
Fold in melted chocolate, and then remaining flour and baking soda.
Add cocoa pushed through tea strainer to ensure no lumps, and last of all, beat in the boiling water.
Mix everything together well to make smooth batter and pour into prepared springform pan.
Bake for up to 1 -1/2 hours, checking cake after 45 minutes. If it's getting too dark, cover top lightly with aluminum foil and keep checking every 15 minutes.
10. Let cake cool completely in pan on rack.

Glaze: 
To make glaze, bring water and honey to boil in pot, then turn off the heat and add finely chopped chocolate, swirling around to melt in hot liquid.
Leave for few minutes, then whisk together.
Add sugar through sieve and whisk again until smooth.

Putting it together:
Choose plate or stand, and cut 4 strips of parchment paper and form square outline on plate. Reason: So when you put cake on it and ice it, icing won't run all over the plate (you can always cut the excess off later).
Unclip  springform pan and set thoroughly cooled cake on prepared plate.
Pour glaze over cold chocolate honey cake. It might dribble a bit down the edges, but don't worry too much about it. Glaze stays tacky for some time (which is what gives it its melting goeyness) so ice in time for glaze to harden a little, at least an hour before you want to serve it.

Nigella Lawson decorates this great cake with marzipan bees. For the recipe for them, and for her exact recipe, go HERE.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chocolate Rugelach for Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts Wednesday night, so I thought I'd get a headstart on chocolate recipes. First up: Chocolate Rugelach. I adore Rugelach, and I must admit, I usually buy them at the bakery, but sometimes you just want to make your own. Rugelach are made with a cream-cheese dough that is wrapped around a filling. Sometimes the filling is nuts or jam, but, of course, for me it's always chocolate!

This recipe for Chocolate Rugelach is adapted from Giora Shimoni on Kosherfood.com.  She calls them Israeli Chocolate Rugelach, because she says Americans tend to fill their chocolate rugelach with mini-chocolate chips, while Israelis make their own filling. Since I always have chocolate around, I make my own filling. This is a go-to recipe. It's easy. Be sure to scroll down for Giora's tips on rugelach making. Even if you're not celebrating Rosh Hashana, you'll love these pastries for breakfast or brunch or with morning coffee. Yum!

CHOCOLATE RUGELACH 

DOUGH:
7 ounces sweet butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

CHOCOLATE FILLING
1 Tbsp DARK cocoa
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup grated bitter-sweet chocolate  (65-75% cacoa)
butter, melted

TOPPING
1 egg
1/8 cup sugar  (if you don't add cinnamon, use 1/4 cup sugar)
1/8 cup cinnamon (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese together. Add sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add flour and mix lightly. Refrigerate dough for an hour or more.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Divide dough into four balls. On floured surface, using floured rolling pin, roll one ball out into circle until about 1/8 inch thick.
In small bowl, mix first four filling ingredients together (cocoa, cinnamon, sugar, grated chocolate). Spread some melted butter on center of the circle. Sprinkle chocolate mixture on top.
Cut pastry into pie-shaped wedges. For bite-size and nice looking rugelach,  thick end of wedge should be about 1 to 1-1/2 inch wide.
Start at wide edge of wedge and roll dough up toward point.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place each pastry, seam side down, on paper.
Brush each pastry with egg and sugar/cinnamon.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  
And here are some great tips from Gloria for making perfect rugelach.

TIPS:
1. Using too much filling leads to messy looking rugelach.
2. A pizza cutter makes it easier to cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges.
3. If you don't want to use parchment paper, you can spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray.
4. After rolling dough up and placing on parchment paper, stick them in freezer. When you need fresh rugelach, take them right from freezer into oven and add a few minutes to the baking time.

Have a sweet New Year!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Agatha Christie: Delicious Death

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime! I posted a bit about Agatha Christie today on my other blog, Mystery Fanfare. Be sure and check it out. It includes a link to a 1955 BBC interview with the Queen of Crime.

As many of you know, I collect 'literary' cookbooks, tie-in cookbooks and the like. The only Agatha Christie cookbook I have is Cremes & chatiments: recettes delicieuses et criminelles Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti et Francois Riviere (in French). It's been reissued, so I actually have an original and a new issue.

When I think of Agatha Christie, chocolate doesn't  usually come to mind. More scones and finger sandwiches, perhaps, an omelet or two, but not many that I would consider deliciously chocolate, although certainly for Poirot there might be some Belgian chocolate.

In honor of Agatha Christie's 120th birthday celebration Jane Asher created a chocolate cake she calls Delicious Death. Jane Asher, a long-time fan of Agatha Christie and actor in many Christie productions, was asked by Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, to create a recipe for the celebration.

"There is nothing more indulgent than afternoon tea. I have particularly fond memories of the lazy afternoons spent with my grandmother at Greenway as she tried out her latest ideas on us over a pot of tea and delicious cakes," said Prichard, calling Asher's invention "truly decadent".

Asher's cake was inspired by a passage in Christie's Miss Marple novel A Murder is Announced in which émigré housekeeper Mitzi bakes it for Dora Bunner's birthday tea. "'Impossible to make such a cake. I need for it chocolate and much butter, and sugar and raisins,'" she tells her employer, Miss Blacklock, who suggests using a tin of butter sent from America and raisins that were being kept for Christmas, along with a "slab of chocolate and a pound of sugar".

Mitzi is delighted. "'It will be rich, rich, of a melting richness! And on top I will put the icing – chocolate icing – I make him so nice – and write on it Good Wishes. These English people with their cakes that tastes of sand, never never, will they have tasted such a cake. Delicious, they will say – delicious'" - but is not so impressed with the name which is dubbed Delicious Death because it's so rich. It becomes an apt name though when Dora Bunner is found dead from poisoning after her birthday tea.

Basing her recipe on the ingredients mentioned in the 1950 novel, Jane Asher created her own version of Delicious Death. From the Guardian: "It has an intense, forbidding dark Belgian chocolate centre which is lifted by the unexpected sharp zing of its brandy-soaked cherry and ginger filling," she said. "The glorious assault on the senses doesn't end there: the cake is decorated with flecks of pure gold, sprinklings of crystallised rose and violet petals, and swirls of ganache piping. This paragon of a cake is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious – and deadly? – to eat."

So in honor of Agatha Christie's Birthday, I am reprinting this recipe.

This cake was served at Greenway in Devon throughout Agatha Christie Week in 2010. It is also  on the menu at Brown's Hotel in Mayfair, said to be the inspiration for At Bertram's Hotel.

Agatha Christie's Delicious Death by Jane Asher

Ingredients
175g dark chocolate drops (50-55% cocoa solids)
100g softened or spreadable butter
100g golden caster sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
150ml rum, brandy or orange juice
150g raisins
55g soft dark brown sugar
6-8 glacé cherries
4-6 pieces crystallised ginger
1 tsp lemon juice

For the decoration:
175g dark chocolate drops (50-55% cocoa solids)
150ml double cream
2 tsps apricot jam
10g crystallized violet petals
10g crystallized rose petals
A small quantity of gold leaf

Directions
Pre-heat the oven to 150C, (300F, 135C fan-assisted). 
Grease an 8" deep cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment or silicone.

Prepare the filling: in a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and stir over heat until the mixture is bubbling. Allow to simmer gently, while stirring, for at least two minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thickened. Allow to cool.

In a small heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate drops over simmering water or in a microwave, being careful not to let it overheat. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy. Separate the eggs, setting aside the whites in a large mixing bowl, and, one by one, add 4 of the yolks to the butter/sugar mix, beating well between each one.

Add the melted chocolate and fold in carefully, then stir in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together the ground almonds and baking powder, then stir them into the cake mix.

Whisk the egg whites until peaked and stiff, then fold gently into the chocolate cake mix.

Spoon the mix into the prepared cake tin, leveling the top, and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 55-65 minutes, or until firm and well risen. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out on to a rack to cool completely.

Using a serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread the cooled fruit filling onto one half and sandwich the two halves back together.

To decorate: put the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and melt them together over simmering water or in a microwave. Spread the cake all over with warmed apricot jam and place on a rack over a baking tray. Keeping back a couple of tablespoonfuls, pour the icing over the whole cake, making sure it covers the top and the sides completely, scooping up the excess from the tray with a palette knife as necessary. Add any surplus to the kept back icing. Carefully transfer the cake to a 10" cake board or pretty plate.

Once the reserved icing is firm enough to pipe, place it in a piping bag with no. 8 star nozzle and pipe a scrolling line around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Leave for two to three hours to set.

Place the violet and rose petals into a plastic bag and crush them into small flakes. Sprinkle these liberally around the chocolate scrolls. Finally, with a cocktail stick, pull off some small flakes of gold leaf and gently add them to the top of the cake.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chocolate Dream Pie: Retro Ad & Recipe

I love Retro Ads with Recipes, and here's another one for this blog from Jell-O for Chocolate Dream Pie. O.K. I probably wouldn't actually make this with Jell-O pudding Dream Pie..but it's such a cool ad. Definitely from a time gone-by.

"Chocolate Dream Pie, as simple as A-B-C"


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Roald Dahl Day: Willy Wonka's Nutty Crunch Surprise

Today is Roald Dahl Day! Roald Dahl is one of the most beloved storytellers of all time. His many popular children's books include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and Matilda. He died in 1990.

And here's an odd chocolate fact about him: He loved chocolate, but not chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream.

So in honor of Roald Dahl's birthday, I'm posting a recipe for Willy Wonka's Nutty Crunch Surprise from Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, illustrated by Quentin Blake with photographs by Jan Baldwin (Viking, 1994) Recipes compiled by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl.

According to Felicity Dahl, "Treats were an essential part of Roald's life--never too many, never too few, and always perfectly timed . . .  Revolting Recipes is an interpretation of some of the scrumptious and wonderfully disgusting dishes that appear in Roald's books."

Willy Wonka's Nutty Crunch Surprise


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Natural vs Dutch-Processed Cocoa

How often have you wondered if you should use Natural or Dutch cocoa in a recipe? And what exactly is the difference? Will it affect your baking?

Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove 3/4 of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch-processed.

Actually, there's nothing very Dutch about Dutch Processed Cocoa. It's only called a Dutching process because the person who invented it, Coenraad J. van Houten, was a 19th century Dutchman who pioneered the use of the hydraulic press to defat chocolate liquor. Van Houten's solution lay in simple chemistry. Cocoa in its natural state is slightly acidic, as indicated by its pH value of around 5.4. By soaking the cocoa nibs in a basic (or alkaline) solution, he found he could raise the pH to 7 (neutral) or even higher. The higher the pH, the darker the color. And, the acids present in natural cocoa were neutralized, reducing its harshness.

Planning to bake with cocoa? Here's advice from David Lebowitz, the King of Chocolate.

Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.

Many classic American recipes, like Devil’s Food Cake, use natural cocoa powder. There is also a reaction between natural cocoa powder and baking soda that occurs in recipes, which creates a reddish crumb, like Devil’s Food Cake.

There are exceptions to each, of course. And according to Fine Cooking magazine, “You can substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch-process in most recipes (though not vice versa). Flavor and texture can be affected, but generally only in recipes calling for 3/4 cup or more.” However when a batter-based recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch-process cocoa powder. But I always advise folks to follow what the recipe says. For sauces and ice creams, they can be swapped out. For cakes and cookies, I don’t recommend it, as your results may not be the same if you make substitutions.

If a recipe calls for either, the main different is that Dutch-process cocoa will give a darker color and a more complex flavor whereas natural cocoa powder tends to be fruitier tasting and lighter in color.

Here are a few cocoas I like that are great in brownies, devil's food cake and other chocolate baked goods: King Arthur Flour Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa,  Callebaut, Guittard, Valrhona, Ghirardelli, and Trader Joe's.

When used alone in cakes, cocoa powder gives a full rich chocolate flavor and dark color. Cocoa powder can also be used in recipes with other chocolate (unsweetened or dark) and this combination produces a cake with a more intense chocolate flavor than if the cocoa wasn't present.

Most recipes call for sifting the cocoa powder with the flour but to bring out its full flavor, combine the cocoa powder with a small amount of boiling water. (If you want to try this in a recipe, substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for the boiling water.)

As I mentioned above there are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch-processed. When in doubt, use the type specified in the recipe. Some prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa as a slight bitterness may be tasted in cakes using natural cocoa and baking soda.

Another Tip: Don't confuse unsweetened natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powder with sweetened cocoa drink mixes. They are not the same thing. 

O.K. all the above is basic baking cocoa information. For me, though, the reality is that natural and Dutch processed cocoa powder are pretty much interchangeable. There are very few recipes that are thrown off by the presence or absence of the acidity of cocoa powder. In fact, many of the ingredients you regularly use in baking are slightly acidic, so even recipes that seem to rely on the acidity of cocoa powder to produce leavening are getting their acidity from milk, butter, egg yolks, honey (sugar is neutral), etc, and the recipe should turn out just fine whichever cocoa you use-- Dutch process or natural cocoa powder.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Cake

What a terrible hurricane season. First Harvey and now Irma with Jose following behind. My heart goes out to all who have been affected by these disastrous storms.

This cake is easy to make -- if you have electricity or gas. The recipe has been around for ages. It gets its name from its appearance. It's not a pretty cake, but it's very flavorful and super moist. You can make it with a German Chocolate Cake Mix or a Devil's Food Cake Mix. If you've weathered the storms or been waiting anxiously for news of loved ones and friends, try this easy cake.

Not into cake right now? Be sure and donate to one of the Hurricane Funds. Have clothes to donate? They'll be a need. Check the Internet for organizations who are receiving goods. And, don't forget the animals. The Humane Society and ASPCA are all needing donations.

Hurricane Cake

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut
1 (18.25 ounce) package German Chocolate Cake Mix or Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt and spread 1/2 cup butter in bottom of 9x13 inch pan.
Sprinkle coconut and pecans evenly over bottom of pan; set aside.
Prepare cake mix as directed on package.
Pour batter over coconut and pecans in pan.
In saucepan over low heat, melt cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter. Stir in confectioners sugar until mixture is smooth.
Spoon cream cheese mixture randomly over top of cake batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Cool and serve from pan.

Tip: For extra flavor, substitute strong brewed coffee for water in the cake mix directions

Sunday, September 10, 2017

TV Dinner Day: Retro TV Dinner Buttermilk Brownies

Today is National TV Dinner Day. When I was growing up, the idea of eating in front of a TV was a foreign concept to my family. We weren't allowed to have TV dinners for so many reasons.  I saw them advertised on TV and in the magazines, but dinner was a sacred time for our family. We ate promptly at 5:30. (I learned later that that was really early for dinner.) From 5:30-6:00 no one answered the phone; everyone was at the table. My father, a pediatrician, had to call his 'exchange' and sign out for the half hour. My mother insisted.

And, as far as frozen ingredients in a TV Dinner? Not the best. My mother shopped every day for fresh meat, fish, and bread. I know we had a freezer in the utility room when I was little and in the garage later, but that was for meat or fish she purchased fresh. No TV Dinners at our house.

Event if TV dinners had been allowed at our home, I would have been the only one who wanted to eat dinner off a tray in front of the TV. My father might have wanted to watch Westerns or Cop shows, but they weren't on at 5:30, anyway. My sister would have loved to bring a book to dinner, but that, too, was banned. It was family time -- a time to talk about the highlights and problems of the day.

But today is National TV Dinner Day, so I thought I'd post a bit of history. Swanson TV Dinners were introduced in the U.S. in 1953. Seven years later, the company stopped calling them TV dinners because they didn't want to discourage people from eating their meals anytime. The generic title TV Dinners, though, did not disappear.

The original TV dinners were on foil trays with foil wrapping and little sections delineated in the tray for different foods. You just heated the entire tray in the oven. O.K. you're saying why not the microwave? Because there weren't any microwaves at that time. The TV dinner--heat and serve-- was new and innovative.

According to Wikipedia, the first Swanson-brand TV Dinner produced in the United States was a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes packaged in a tray like those used at the time for airline food service. The trays proved to be useful: the entire dinner could be removed from the outer packaging as a unit; the aluminum tray could be heated directly in the oven without any extra dishes; and one could eat the meal directly from the same tray. The product was cooked for 25 minutes at 425°F and fit nicely on a TV tray table. The original TV Dinner sold for 98 cents, and had a production estimate of 5,000 dinners for the first year. Swanson far exceeded its expectations, and ended up selling more than 10 million of these dinners in the first year of production. 


FYI: The early TV dinners did not have dessert, but that changed in 1960 and sometimes there was an Apple Brown Betty, chocolate pudding, or a brownie.

Other brands followed suit, but not for awhile. There were Swanson TV Dinners and Bird's Eye TV Dinners. Now, of course, we have lots of prepared meals that can be nuked in the microwave or baked in the oven. It's all about convenience. On the commercial side, Marie Callendar, Claim Jumpers, Banquet, Stouffers, Heatlhy Choice, Lean Cuisine and Hungry Man (Swansons) sell full dinners, but I've never tried them. It's just not the same. There was something so futuristic about the TV Dinner in the tiny foil tray that intrigued me.

This recipe for TV Dinner Buttermilk Brownies is reminiscent of the TV Dinner Brownie on the tray. These Brownies are cake-like with icing, so they might not be my brownie of choice, but they're tasty. Here's a blast from the past.

TV DINNER BUTTERMILK BROWNIES

 Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 pound confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Directions
In saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and water to a boil. Cool.
In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt.
Pour cocoa mixture over dry ingredients; mix well.
Combine buttermilk and baking soda; add to batter along with eggs, vanilla.
Mix until well combined.
Pour into greased 15 x 10 x1 greased and floured baking pan.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Frosting: Melt butter, cocoa and buttermilk in a saucepan. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Spread over warm brownies.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Teddy Bear Triple Chocolate Scones

Today is National Teddy Bear Day. You may not think that's a food holiday, but when I was little I always had teddy bear tea parties, and I always served them scones. My grandparents were married in London, and I got my love of tea with milk and sugar -- and tea with scones and clotted cream from them. So for today's Teddy Bear Day, here's a recipe for Triple Chocolate Scones. Of course you might want to add some honey on your scones. Bears love honey!

Teddy Bear Triple Chocolate Scones 

Ingredients 
1-3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
6 Tbsp unsalted butter (cold)
7-8 Tbsp whole milk (cold)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp chopped dark chocolate
Sugar Crystals

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift together dry ingredients in large bowl (not the chocolate chips or chocolate). Add chocolate chips and dark chocolate.
Cut butter into dry ingredients until size of peas.
Put vanilla into small bowl and add milk.
Pour most of milk mixture into dry mix and stir to moisten. Dough should be moist enough to form a soft ball, but not sticky.
If needed, additional milk can be added 1-2 teaspoons at time.
Turn dough onto lightly floured cutting board and press out with hand to approximately 1/2 inch thickness. (makes 10-12 scones or 8-12 wedges)
Do not over-knead dough. Use as little flour as possible to keep dough from sticking to board.
Cut into desired shapes and place on lightly greased baking sheet.
Lightly brush tops with milk (or not).
Sprinkle with sugar crystals (you can get this at King Arthur Flour or in the baking section of the market). (If using a biscuit cutter or glass, dip the cutting edge in flour first)
Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on size. Start checking at 9 minutes. Do not overbake!
Sprinkle again with large sugar crystals while scones are still hot for visual appeal.

Tip: Scones are like biscuits. To get a tender, flaky scone, dough should be handled as little as possible, and you should always use cold butter and cold milk.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dromedary Date Nut Bread in a Can: Retro Ad & Recipe

Dromedary Date Nut Bread (in a can) had a Jingle Contest in 1940 to win nylon hose, and there were winners. Here's both the Advertisement and the Ad with the winners!
***
Today is Date Nut Bread Day. Has this wonderful quick bread fallen out of favor? I think not. It's a great bread to smother with cream cheese.. or the more richer marscapone. Date Nut Bread makes fabulous sandwiches. It's also great toasted and smeared with sweet butter. Add some chocolate chips or chunks to the recipe, and it belongs on this blog!

This wonderful advertisement from 1940 not only reflects the popularity of this quick bread in the U.S., but it's an historical testament to nylon hose and prepared foods at that time. Want to sell a product in the 1940s? Appeal to women. To win a pair of nylons, all you needed to do was finish the jingle. 1000 lucky women won nylons.

In 1939  DuPont introduced nylon stockings at the New York World's Fair, whose theme was the "World of Tomorrow." DuPont then went into full scale production, and "by May 1940, nylon hose was a huge success and women lined up at stores across the county to obtain the precious goods." Just an FYI, nylon went to war in 1942  to be used  as parachutes and tents (as silk had been before nylon) and became in short supply.

Dromedary Date Nut Bread in a Can is no longer in production, but isn't the concept and advertisement fabulous. I used to bake a lot of quick breads in a can, but they didn't come already baked in a can, right on the shelves. FYI: Dromedary Date-Nut Bread in a can did not contain chocolate.

Dromedary Dates, which were also sold at the market, had a recipe on the back of the package for Date-Nut Bread. Here's a recipe that's pretty close to the original Dromedary Date-Nut Bread Recipe -- with the addition of Chocolate Chips. If you want your finished Date Nut Bread to look similar to the ad above, bake the date-nut breads in 4 soup cans!

DROMEDARY DATE-NUT BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Ingredients
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pitted dates (Dromedary chopped dates from the original recipe- one package-8 ounces-equals 2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp oil  (or 3 tbsp melted butter-original recipe mentions margarine, but I don't use margarine)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup sifted flour, unbleached
1/2 cup dark chopped chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.
With fork, mix walnuts, dates, soda, and salt in bowl.
Add oil and boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes.
With fork, beat eggs slightly, add vanilla.
Stir in sugar and sifted flour.
Mix in date mixture.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Do Not Overmix.
Place in greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (or coffee can or 4 soup cans).
Bake at 350 for 1 hour until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 10 minutes.
Move to wire rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

National Beer Lovers Day: Chocolate Stout Truffles

Today is National Beer Lovers Day. I like a good chocolate stout, and I'm lucky enough to live in an area with several microbreweries that produce Chocolate Stout. Chocolate Stout adds a bit of creaminess that enhances the taste of these beer truffles

CHOCOLATE STOUT TRUFFLES

Ingredients
1/2 cup Chocolate Stout, reduced by half
12 ounces dark chocolate (65-75% cacao), chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder (Dutch process) or ground espresso

Directions
Reduce stout (texture should be thick enough to lightly coat a spoon).
Stir in butter and heavy cream and bring to simmer. As soon as bubbles start forming, pour over chopped chocolate.
Whisk to blend and put in refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap) until ganache is set, at least 3 hours.
Remove ganache from refrigerator, and using melon baller or spoon, scoop out ganache and roll into balls. You can also finish off by hand.
Place each ganache ball on parchment paper and put back in refrigerator for about an hour to harden.
Roll ganache balls in cocoa powder or ground espresso.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ruby Chocolate: A new Iteration of chocolate

It's not milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate. Yes, it's its own chocolate: Ruby Chocolate!!

Barry Callebaut Group, one the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, debuted Ruby Chocolate, a new variety of chocolate, at a launch event in Shanghai, China to a panel of tasters and experts.  It was created at the company's research and development centers in Belgium and France, a well as Jacobs University in Germany.

Named for its reddish-pink hue, the variety is being touted as the fourth-ever type of chocolate, alongside dark, milk, and white. Ruby would be the first new type since food scientists developed white chocolate (which isn't exactly chocolate) 80 years ago.

In a press release spokespeople for Barry Callebaut said, the “chocolate meets a consumer that no chocolate ever did before.” Made from red cocoa powder derived from the ruby cocoa bean, the new iteration is said to be "not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness.”

According to The Sun, Angus Kennedy of Kennedy’s Confection magazine called the unique variety, “refreshing, light, and fruity.” These are not adjectives usually describing chocolate. The fruity flavor notes require no artificial berry flavoring or red coloring.

This announcement comes amid technological changes to the chocolate industry which is being forced to adjust to changing tastes and more health-conscious consumers.

Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream Pie: National Coffee Ice Cream Day

Here's a really easy Ice Cream Pie to celebrate Coffee Ice Cream Day! This recipe is adapted from an old recipe in Bon Appetit. In this recipe you use both coffee and chocolate ice cream!

CHOCOLATE COFFEE ICE CREAM PIE

Ingredients
1 cup whipping cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp instant coffee crystals
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 pint coffee ice cream, softened
1- 9 inch chocolate cookie crust*
10 Oreos, crushed coarsely (about 1 cup)
1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened

Directions
Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chunks; whisk until chocolate is melted. 
Whisk in coffee and vanilla. Let cool.
Spread softened coffee ice cream evenly in crust. 
Pour 3/4 cup chocolate sauce over ice cream; sprinkle with crushed Oreos. 
Freeze until ice cream is firm (20 minutes). 
Drizzle 1/3 cup sauce over pie. 
Spread softened chocolate ice cream (gently) on top. Sprinkle with crushed Oreos.
Freeze pie until firm, 2 hours at least.

Cartoon of the Day: Zucchini


Another option for all that zucchini is to make this Kahlua Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Great Ways to Use Cocoa Nibs: Tuesday Tip

One part of the cocoa bean that often gets short shrift is the Cocoa Nib. I've posted cocoa nib recipes, of course, but today my Tuesday Tip is Great Ways to Use Cocoa Nibs. 

Cocoa Nibs are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans. Cocoa nibs are not chocolate pieces. They are roasted beans separated from their husks. But, since I'm all about chocolate, I see cocoa nibs as just chocolate in a different form--not sweet--since sugar isn't added. Nevertheless, they have a very unique chocolate taste and interesting texture. There are both raw and roasted cocoa nibs. I prefer roasted cocoa nibs. If you're going to buy cocoa nibs, go for organic, and definitely buy them from a chocolatier you like.

I use cocoa nibs in lots of ways, but my best advice is to use them sparingly until you get the hang of them. They're a bit bitter, and you won't want to overwhelm your dish. You'll soon figure out how many to put into your favorite foods. That being said, I use cocoa nibs in both savory and sweet dishes.

SAVORY

Add them to salads for some special crunch.

For an hors d'oeuvre, roll a log of goat cheese in crushed cacoa nibs.

Use as a crust on chicken.

Add them to chili.

Grind them up and use in your barbecue rub.

Add them to mole´.

SWEET

Roll chocolate ganache truffles in chopped nibs in place of cocoa or nuts.

Add them to pancake batter.

Add them to granola or bake them into granola bars.

Mix into Greek yogurt (I add a little honey, too)

Throw them on your oatmeal.

Add them to smoothies.

Use them as sprinkles on cupcakes

Use them as sprinkles on ice cream.

Add them to brittle instead of nuts.

Use them instead of nuts or chocolate chips in Chocolate Chip Cookies. (see recipe below)

Add them instead of nuts in brownies.

Candy them with a caramel glaze.

Dip them in chocolate for another great snack.

OTHER

Add some to your coffee grinder for a special blend.

Eat some plain.

And here's a surprising use: Chew some as a Breath Freshener.

And, if all else fails, have some around and just smell them. The aroma is quite heady!

Chocolate Chip Cocoa Nib Cookies  
a variation on the traditional Toll House Cookie recipe

Ingredients:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate chunks)
3/4 cup chopped cocoa nibs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and cocoa nibs. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is National Macadamia Nut Day! Since I like nuts in my chocolate chip cookies, I decided to repost this excellent recipe! There's always room for one more chocolate chip cookie!

Since it's Macadamia Nut Day, just a few words about these unique nuts. They're quite healthy -- high in antioxidants, monusaturated fat, and minerals. O.K., one caveat. Don't eat too many of them, because they are also high in calories.

Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1-1/4 cups dark chocolate chips (you can always mix 1/2 white and 1/2 dark)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets.
Cream butter and sugars together in large bowl.
Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually blend into batter.
Stir in chopped macadamia nuts and chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.
Remove from oven, and transfer to cooling rack.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Chocolate Chip Cookies


Labor Day Triple Fudge Cake: Retro Holiday Recipe

Happy Labor Day! Instead of posting chocolate barbecue rub recipes today, I thought I'd post this Retro Recipe for Labor Day Triple Fudge Cake from Betty Crocker's Party Book, copyright 1960. The Party Book is all about being a good 'hostess' with fun, if somewhat dated, recipes for most holidays: "More than 500 recipes, menus and how-to-do-it tips for festive occasions the year 'round."

So to celebrate Labor Day, make this simple Labor Day Triple Fudge Cake, virtually labor-free.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes: International Bacon Day

Today is International Bacon Day! And, since it's a holiday weekend, what could be more fun to make than Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes.

Vosges
has a great pancake batter mix that's simple to use and that I think is really delicious. It's a riff on their Mo Bacon Bar that I really like. There are several ways you can make Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes. You can buy Vosges’s Bacon Chocolate Chip buttermilk pancake mix that is dotted with chunks of Mo’s Bacon Bar. Or, you buy the candy bar directly and chop it up and put it into your own pancake recipe.

Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix combines the Mo's Bacon Bar with fluffy flapjacks. The buttermilk pancakes are spotted with chunks of their Mo's Bacon Bar Candy Bar, that combines applewood smoked bacon and Alder sea salt with deep milk chocolate. The instructions give two methods for incorporating the bacon chocolate chunks: you can either sprinkle them on top of each pancake before flipping them in the pan, or layer them between the finished pancakes before serving. Layering the chunks between the pancakes worked best for me. And, here's a heads-up. The batter itself is excellent.

Want to make your own Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes on your own? First make some chocolate covered bacon and consider that your chocolate chips. Cook and cool your bacon, then crumble it. Use a good smoked bacon, not bacon from a package. Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler and mix the bacon in, spread it on a cookie sheet to cool, then use it. Then use your favorite pancake recipe.

Or, you can use both chopped bacon and chocolate chips. The main difference between these two types is the mixing. The bacon should be mixed into the buttermilk batter and the chocolate chips should be dropped on top of the pancake while it is cooking on one side. Otherwise the chocolate might leak onto the grill. Very messy. Also the chocolate might burn if it is left on the heat. The worst that can happen to the bacon is that it will become more crisp, and that's great! Following the Mo's Bacon Pancake advise, you can always add the chocolate chips when you stack, but for this recipe, you can always include them right after you flip.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Bacon and Chocolate Chips

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
about 1/2 cup smoked good quality bacon, cooked until crisp, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I like dark Ghirardelli or Guittard)

Directions
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In separate bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture along with the bacon and stir until combined but a bit lumpy to avoid over mixing.
Heat a lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat. When a drop of water sizzles on the surface, drop heaping spoonfuls of batter onto the skillet, making 3-inch pancakes. Cook until golden brown on each side, add chocolate chips after flipping the first and only time --or when stacking.

So you have lots of options:

1) Buy the delicious Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix
2) Make your own Pancakes and chop up a Mo's Bacon Bar and add it to the batter or the 1/2 cooked pancakes or when you stack.
3) Make your own chocolate covered bacon and add to batter or stacked pancakes
4) Make your own pancakes with cooked chopped bacon and add chocolate chips

Whatever you choose, you're going to have some great pancakes to celebrate National Bacon Day.

Friday, September 1, 2017

No Bake Kahlua Pie for Labor Day

It's Labor Day Weekend, and the temperature in Northern California is going to hit triple digits. Not a weekend to be baking. So I thought I'd post this simple recipe for a No-Bake Kahlua Pie. I first saw the recipe on Serious Eats (a favorite site). The recipe is from Yvonne Ruperti, author of One Bowl Baking: Simple from Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts (2013). Check out the cookbook for more easy chocolate recipes.

No Bake Kahlua Pie

Ingredients
44 chocolate wafers, divided, finely ground (I use Nabisco Famous Wafers)
8 Tbsp sweet butter, melted
2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
Pinch salt
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
7 Tbsp Kahlua, divided
3 1/3 cups heavy cream, chilled, divided

Directions
Pulse 36 wafer cookies in food processor until finely ground. Place crumbs in large bowl and stir in melted butter, 1 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp water until thoroughly moistened. Firmly press into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate. Pulse remaining 8 cookies until finely ground and set aside.
Place chocolate in large heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat.
Add 1 Tbsp water to small microwave safe bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top. Let sit 5 minutes to soften. Heat in microwave on high power until just melted, 10 to 20 seconds.
Whisk 6 Tbsp Kahlua into melted chocolate. Whisk in melted gelatin.
Whip 2 1/3 cups cream with 1 Tbsp sugar to medium peaks. Fold cream into chocolate in 3 batches, until just combined. Gently fold in reserved chocolate wafer crumbs. Pour into pie shell and chill until set, about 3 hours.
Whip remaining cup cream with remaining 2 tsp sugar to soft peak. Fold in remaining Tbsp coffee liquor. Serve on side.